Postmedia to lay off 11% of editorial staff, sources say

Sources say newspaper publisher Postmedia Network Corp. is laying off 11 percent of its editorial staff, less than a week after workers were told the company was grappling with “economic contraction.”

Postmedia, which owns publications including the National Post, Vancouver Sun and Calgary Herald and employs about 650 journalists, announced the layoffs at a town hall Tuesday afternoon.

In an audio recording of the meeting obtained by The Canadian Press, Gerry Nott, acting senior vice-president of editorial content, said the cuts would affect all of the company’s publications with the exception of Brunswick News and Postmedia Editorial Services, which have already been downsized.

“There isn’t a property in our network that won’t be affected by a restructuring, reorganization or layoff,” he said.

“And to be clear, this is about aligning our cost structure with our revenue stream against ongoing decline in our industry and strong economic headwinds leading up to this difficult decision on staff reduction.”

Postmedia did not respond to a request for comment on the cuts.

The sources asked not to be identified as they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter or share recordings of the meeting.

A dozen newspapers going digital-only

The job cuts come days after the company warned staff in a memo that an unspecified number of roles would be eliminated across Postmedia over the coming months through hiring restrictions and layoffs.

At the same time, it announced it was moving a dozen of its Alberta community newspapers to digital-only formats, eyeing more outsourcing deals for printing, laying off workers and selling the home of the Calgary Herald.

The company had also adjusted print deadlines in major markets, made changes to its comics and puzzles and eliminated publishing papers on some days, Nott said Tuesday.

“Had we not made those changes, the number of journalists affected by the layoff would be considerably higher,” he said.

A man walks past newspaper boxes containing the Vancouver Sun and the Province in downtown Vancouver.
A man walks past newspaper boxes containing the Vancouver Sun and the Province in downtown Vancouver in 2016. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Nott added that the company had yet to identify specific jobs that will be cut and said it is possible that management positions will be affected at a higher or disproportionate rate than non-management roles.

He said he expected to start having conversations with editors carrying out the reductions in the next 24 hours and urged anyone who felt they couldn’t be part of the company’s future to talk to the union, human resources or editorial representatives about voluntary layoff packages.

Nott also revealed that the company was going to move to remote work on a permanent basis, except for markets like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, which he said would return to the office.

He acknowledged the moves would create a “difficult time,” but said it was “vital” to find a path through this “extremely turbulent stretch.”

Journalists ‘demoralized … disillusioned’

Staff were “totally demoralized and disillusioned” by Nott’s announcement, said Martin O’Hanlon, president of CWA Canada, a union representing some Postmedia workers.

“I always think we’ve hit rock bottom, and then they always find a new bottom,” he said. “I just don’t know how you can run a successful media company with this level of staffing.”

He added that the cuts only make the fight against disinformation and misinformation harder, are bad for democracy and mean that “Postmedia is now treading water to survive.”

Peg Fong, a journalism instructor at Langara College in Vancouver, said the cuts were “devastating.”

“It seems like the cuts at Postmedia have been deeper than in other major media outlets … It seems there’s always some reason that they’re wanting to cut reporters, who are the lifeblood of newspapers,” she said.

Newspaper conglomerates including Postmedia have long been struggling with dwindling print subscriber numbers, the rise of big tech companies that have eaten into media profits and more advertising moving online from print.

“The unassailable truth is that the print audience is going away, it’s a demographic that’s not being replaced by another readership audience who consumes news in the same way,” said Nott on Tuesday.

“It’s clear that our advertisers have moved from print to digital. It’s clear that in the digital space we’re up against some behemoth that makes it very competitive and very difficult for us.”

In recent years, Postmedia has coped by closing a number of small-town newspapers, reducing print production of some of its titles and resorting to layoffs and voluntary buyouts to manage costs.

Asked whether Postmedia itself will exist in the coming years, Nott said, “I think there’s every reason for hope and that we will exist three to five years from now.”

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